2020 may be over, but the COVID-19 pandemic is far from it. While on one side we do have vaccines being administered to millions, on the other hand are looming issues such as the lack of enough quantity vaccines, the occurrence and severity of adverse reactions, and most of all, their durability against new coronavirus variants.
While mutations and variants are common for any pathogen (COVID-19 virus alone is said to have around 4000 of them), some in particular stand out and prove to be lethal as they circulate their way into the population. The United Kingdom (UK), as it turns out, happens to be one of the ‘origin areas’ of one of these variants. Discovered in November 2020, this particular variant has been estimated to have circulated in the country since as early as September 2020, and a high incidence of infections from it caused the UK to enter into yet another strict lockdown.
The lockdown, which is set to stay in place till at least March 2021, involves rules and regulations that are in many ways, stricter than the ones set on the onset of the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020. It has essentially put to an end the various relaxations that were being made for the foreseeable future.
Below we will find out the ways in which the ongoing pandemic and its recent developments have affected the state of travel for the UK.
Traveling to the UK
The government has released its own list of countries from which arrivals are currently banned – no matter the circumstances. The only exception to this rule are British citizens and residents who wish to return to their home country.
At the onset of the previous lockdown, the rules for those entering the UK were pretty relaxed. While the country did close its border to international travelers, they allowed citizens and residents to return. Upon arrival, there was no testing or obligation to get quarantined. Of course, this soon changed with the rising numbers of incidence of the disease, whereupon, all arrivals were tested for the virus, but only those who tested positive were to go under mandatory quarantine.
The story of this lockdown, however, is very different. While the government has allowed need and importance-based arrivals into the UK from specific countries, the first thing they have to do is present a COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arriving in the UK. They must also spend a mandatory period in hotel quarantine. This applied regardless of the status of citizenship and/or whether they test positive or negative for the virus.
The minimum period for quarantine is 10 days.
Traveling from the UK
Unlike the former situation, traveling from the UK to other countries – be it for travel or business is a much tedious affair.
Unless the travel deals with the completion essential services (such as trade of food, medicines and other important supplies), acute emergencies (such as specific medical procedures), or high-priority diplomatic missions, traveling from the UK is completely prohibited.
The government has also put a law in place for lying. If residents leaving the country on an emergency basis are found to have lied about their international whereabouts, they face up to £10,000 in fines and/or up to 10 years in jail. This is unlike any of the other previous national lockdowns.
For UK residents, these developments come at the most unfortunate time. Given as most vacations happen during the summer (March to July), and bookings are done in advance, there are several doubts as to whether it is even sensible to book holidays (both domestic and international).
Even as vaccinations are being done at record speed (not to mention that the UK is the first country to come up with it in the first place), and the end of the current national lockdown being set in March, the uncertainty is at an all-time high. This is in no small part due to the fact that the death rate from COVID-19 is at an all-time high and that despite all measures, it has been extremely difficult to bring the number of daily new cases under control.